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Feeling busy is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to always be that way

(ENTREPRENEUR) At some point, everyone feels overwhelmingly busy but you don’t have to be stuck in that feeling.

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How to Feel Less Busy

Most of us would consider ourselves busy in the plainest sense of the word—and if you’re here and reading this article, it seems safe to assume to that you fit into the busy mold, too.

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While making oneself less busy is often an exercise in dawdling or running pointless errands (the printer can only run out of elbow grease so many times, Harold), here are a few ways you can make your own haste more bearable.

Start early, finish early.

Contrary to what non-morning people think, beginning your day earlier than necessary doesn’t shift your hours of operation up a few pegs. You’ll often notice that waking up a couple hours early doesn’t alter your bedtime.

Instead, you grant yourself an extra chunk of daylight with which to accomplish your goals.

Additionally, replacing the feeling of exhaustion that accompanies late hours with a sense of euphoria at finishing one’s work an hour or two early will leave you feeling mentally relaxed.

Respect your own “Do Not Disturb” hours.

Maybe you’re one of those people who can’t leave your cell phone or email inbox alone while you’re off the clock. I’m guilty of this myself; the stress of knowing that your inbox is probably filling up with hate mail from your boss and free money from Nigeria as you take an hour to yourself is absolutely maddening.

Ask yourself this, though: when was the last time your actual inbox matched your perception of what it might look like after a night away?

Once you learn that it’s okay to punch out mentally as well, your periods of rest and relaxation will significantly improve.

Similarly, it can be tempting to want to get a head start on the following day’s tasks. Resist the urge to plan or do some “light work”—instead, treat your off-the-clock hours the way they deserve to be treated and just have a damn beer.

Minimize distractions.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with tasks when you keep seeing white numbers on red backgrounds popping up on your Facebook page and your phone is constantly whistling at you. Since these are often tasks that don’t matter in the context of the work day, consider muting them while you’re in work mode. The less visual and audible input you have, the less you’ll feel like you’re juggling.

Leave a small task unfinished.

This is a favorite of mine. At the end of the day, try to leave a small, easily accomplished item on your checklist for the following day. This will allow you to start the following morning with a work-related warmup of sorts.

Especially if you’re getting up earlier than necessary, having this tiny task will help ease you into the day’s routine.

Even if the task is something as small as reloading your stapler or installing a computer update, this is a fantastic way to feel productive while not overburdening yourself from the moment you step into your office.

Establish a reasonable effort baseline.

It’s easy to want to go all-out when you first take a position or receive a promotion, but try pacing yourself a bit. Tackling an insane amount of work at the beginning of your time with an employer will set that standard as your baseline in their eyes, while leaving yourself with some space to improve in the beginning will afford you some breathing room later.

This isn’t to say that you should purposefully suck at your job, of course—just know that you don’t have to scale Mount Everest every day to hold onto your job.

Pay attention to down time.

It’s easy to note the amount of time you’re spending performing a certain task. Less easy is realizing and embracing the brief respites between tasks, or finding time to relax while performing an easy job.

When I was a sophomore in college, I had a job cleaning the floors in the UC kitchen. It wasn’t a particularly entertaining job, of course, and it was fairly challenging most nights; however, I knew that the point at which I had to wash the kitchen mats was a time to look forward to, since it required little cognitive input and allowed me a break from the stench of rotting produce and cleaning chemicals.

I also grew potatoes under a soup kettle in that kitchen as a form of retribution toward our grumpy boss, though, so perhaps you shouldn’t listen to me.

The point here is simply that taking some time to appreciate the invariable breaks between momentous tasks throughout the day will make the day seem marginally less crowded, which may be exactly what you need.

And, failing that, try kicking a potato or two under your boss’ desk. They’ll sprout for, like, no reason at all, and you’ll get a laugh out of it.

#chillpill

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to stay focused and motivated when you work from home

(ENTREPRENEURSHIP) Do you find it impossible to stay on task when you work from home? Check out our tips for maintaining focus and motivation when working remotely.

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When you work from home, it is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you technically never have to get dressed. However, you also end up with every possible distraction at your fingertips. Staying focused can be difficult even if you’re Type A, which I certainly am not.

Although I’m no expert in time management, I’ve managed to hone my borderline ADD attention span into productivity with the following tactics.

1. Define your workspace

First things first, you need somewhere to get work done. While some people may be able to get everything done from bed, for others the temptation to nap the day away is far too tempting. Get yourself a desk, or turn a table into a temporary workspace. Just make sure if you have kids or family at home while you’re working, they understand the boundaries of your zone.

Setting up camp in the living room isn’t going to help you if the kids are using it as a play space, and hiding out in a guest bedroom won’t provide much privacy if you didn’t let anyone know that it’s now temporarily your cubicle. Consider making a do not disturb sign for the door, or using shelves to define boundaries in a room.

2. Create a schedule

Okay, I know it’s obvious, but making a schedule for yourself is the next step after setting up a workspace. Determine what needs to get done and when, and share this with your housemates, kids, or whoever else is around. It’s easier to stay focused if you clearly define when you’re working so any potential distractions known when to leave you alone and for how long.

3. Determine productivity

Are you more of a morning person or do you get everything done post afternoon nap? Figure out when your most productive time is and set your schedule accordingly.

You won’t get much done if you’re a night owl forcing yourself to slam out projects at 6AM. Of course, you can work outside of your productivity zone, but you may make yourself miserable in the process.

4. Remove distractions

Nothing is going to get done if your phone is blowing up with texts, your favorite TV show is on, and that fun quiz someone sent you on Facebook is up in one tab while your personal email is open in another. Set your phone to silent if you’re able, or at the very least, let your most frequent contacts know that you’re working.

If you’re like me and have very little self-control when it comes to browsing your favorite sites, you may consider installing a browser plug-in that limits how long you can spend on certain sites, or even temporarily block sites during certain times of the day.

5. Set a timer

Once you’ve created a schedule, widely shared it with your most distractible folks, and are ready to get down to business… there’s still distractions. You know you’re working on something for the next hour and half, but it’s dragging out forever and you can’t stop checking the clock to see if it’s break time yet.

Set a timer on your phone, computer, kitchen timer, or even your microwave. This way you can remain focused and have something externally alerting you when time’s up.

6. Reward system

It works for kids, it can work for you too. Setting up a reward system may help boost motivation, and can be as simple as “if I work for two hours solid on this project, I can watch one episode of this TV show.”

Give yourself a reasonable goal and incentive to complete that goal if the project itself isn’t inspiring internal motivation. I’m a fan of dessert based rewards, but you do you.

7. Go somewhere else

When all else fails, don’t work at home. If you’re able to, get out of the house and go to a coffee shop, library, or coworking space. Shame yourself into working by telling yourself everyone around you knows when you’re distracted. Or you know, find motivation by surrounding yourself with others who are being productive.

8. Power in numbers

Join a group of other freelancers or remote employees to create a support system. While this may open you up to more distractions, having others around who share the same struggle of remote work could help increase your productivity. Some people are more motivated when working independently in a group setting. Give it a try to find out if you’re part of that crew.

Ultimately, you know yourself and what distracts you.

Try to remove as many distractions as possible, and create a realistic schedule for yourself. No one will benefit from working eight hours straight without a break. Give yourself a chance to test out different techniques and figure out what works best for you.

You’re not a failure if setting up shop in the library ends up making you less productive. Just try another setting, or rearranging your home workspace. Ultimately, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with a clear schedule, a clean workspace, and some sort of break/reward system. You can work out the other details as you go.

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Business Entrepreneur

Why CloudApp needs to be in your business toolkit

(EDITORIAL) CloudApp is simple yet powerful for any sized business, keeping your productivity at an all-time high.

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Are you fed up of screenshotting something and taking the time to drag it into a Slack window to share with an employee for them to ask you what you meant by this. Well, so was I. Working remotely occasionally has its blunders when it comes to communication, the struggles of explaining what you meant without the need to meet via a video call or jump over to another person’s desk can sometimes be a tricky situation to be in.

This is the same for in-office situations too. There’s been plenty of times in an office where I’ve had to break my own workflow or someone else’s to head over to their desk to visually explain something. A potentially useful period of time.

A few weeks ago, this pretty much came to a stop. After receiving two emails during a week in October with two types of link attachments, I was curious what they were. Clicking into these links, I got a visual demonstration of what the person was speaking about. I was so impressed. From a screen demo of a website to how something worked and what buttons to click to get a desired outcome. I was blown off my feet.

Simple as it was, the app is called CloudApp. Both available on Windows and Mac, CloudApp’s primary goal was allowing users to capture these moments like a screenshot or a screen record to help explain the thing in front of you, with little worries. The magic didn’t stop there, once I started playing with CloudApp, I recorded a short demo of a site bug/issue that we had and instantly I heard a “ping”. The recording was captured and ready in a paste-able link.

Within seconds, I sent over the visual demonstration. Dead simple, hugely effective.

By the end of the working day, I had visually explained 98% of things in Slack conversations, emails, mobile texts and even to those I was sitting near. It was a crazy addition to my Mac and productivity across my day and it didn’t stop there.

CloudApp also did a host of beneficial things like allow you to annotate images or screenshots, create GIFs, upload files and even record webcam videos too to support your screenshots.

I would recommend CloudApp to everyone. I was so impressed with their toolkit.

The freemium account is great too. You get unlimited screenshots and annotation with 15s of GIF and screen record creation, which was so reasonable for someone getting started. There are additional pricing options too. CloudApp is available for Mac and Windows and is well worth installing to take full advantage of visually explaining things to friends, colleagues, and those struggling to get a drift of what you are trying to talk about.

Download CloudApp for Mac and Windows.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to determine your freelance rates based on data, not your gut

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Setting freelancer rates can be quite the tricky business. This tool does arms you with the data you need to grow your business

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The bulk of my professional career has been spent as a freelancer. The designation of “freelancer” has taken me on an interesting path that allowed for projects and opportunities I didn’t even know existed.

While I’m grateful for each and every opportunity, I now look back on some of these experiences and realize that I was vastly underpaid. For the most part, this is my fault as someone paying for a service is looking for the lowest possible rate and I never bothered to bargain out of fear of losing the role.

It was even at a point where I dreaded being asked my hourly rate because I didn’t know what the norm was. There was always a fear of charging too much and getting dropped for someone cheaper, or charging too little and looking inexperienced.

We recently talked about knowing your worth and how we freelancers often under charge for our services. Luckily, as this career path becomes more and more popular, there are now more resources devoted to helping us know what to charge.

Such a resource comes in the form of Freelance Rates Explorer. Created by Bonsai, this online tool gives users the ability explore rates from 40,000 freelancers worldwide.

“There are many sites like Glassdoor that offer salary data comparisons for full time employees,” said the tool’s developers. “However, there isn’t a site like this dedicated to provide insights on freelancers rates. We had this data, so we built the Rate Explorer to make it easy for freelancers to compare their rates in the largest publicly available rates database on the Internet.”

In order to find the standard rate for their field, users will input their role (either development or design), their skills (full stack, front-end, back-end, DevOps, iOS, and Android), experience (in years), and location. The Rate Explorer then generates a bar graph based on the answers and will show the most common hourly rates based on the number of freelancers and the rates range.

Bonsai also offers proposals, contracts, time tracking, invoicing and payments, and reporting. All of this is designed for freelancers.

As for the Rates Explorer, seeing the numbers calculated right in front of you may make you realize that you’re vastly underselling yourself. This tool can be especially beneficial to use now as we go into a new year and may be updating contracts.

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